TMS’ Gossage: Give NASCAR A Break Already

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 2 2019
The new-look Cup Series cars are in Las Vegas this weekend. Texas Motor Speedway’s Eddie Gossage said this week that he is a fan of the rules package that debuted at Atlanta last weekend. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas _ Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage has several suggestions for NASCAR’s never-ending cycle of social media critics.

Go wash your socks.

Take a zumba class.

Walk the Appalachian Trail.

“Everything NASCAR does isn’t wrong,” Gossage said in an interview with Dallas-Fort Worth reporters during TMS’ annual Media Day Season Preview. “And it seems like that everything NASCAR did (rules-wise), somebody is trying to be the first to say, ‘NASCAR sucks!’ And NASCAR doesn’t suck. I mean, they suck some of the time, you know, but not all of the time.”

Gossage’s comments were in response to questions concerning the sanctioning body’s 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rules package designed to reduce horsepower and create more close-quarters racing on intermediate-sized tracks like TMS’ 1.5-mile oval. Teams dealt with the new package for the first time last weekend at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway, a sister facility to TMS in O. Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc., empire.

Gossage joined NASCAR Hall of Famer Roger Penske, owner of the No. 2 Ford Mustang Brad Keselowski drove to victory at AMS, in giving the race a “B” grade. “You could come up and you could pass. But it was still hard to pass (for the lead),” Penske said post-race. “Overall, I felt today was a solid B. Nobody gets an A on their first exam.”

Roger Penske gave the new Cup rules package a letter grade of “B” after one of his cars won at Atlanta. (RacinToday photo by Martha Fairris)

Keselowski was one of nine drivers who swapped the lead 26 times on AMS’ abrasive surface. “That’s really a different kind of racing surface,” Gossage said. “That racing surface was paved the same year this speedway opened (March 1997) and hasn’t been repaved since. We’re on our fourth repave job. So that’s a dinosaur _ it’s very abrasive to the tires.  We saw tires just shredded last week from that rough, almost cheese grader-like finish. So I don’t think we’ve seen yet what we’re going to see for most of the time in 2019.”

Gossage noted those facts hardly slowed the negative comments he has been sifting through.

“Something I’ve been preaching lately is, in the world of social media, there’s a rush to have the snarkiest line of the day about whatever,” Gossage said. “There’s plenty of things to complain about in the world today, there’s plenty of things to complain about in racing today. And my point is, if you love racing…I love all kinds of racing. And if you love racing, why are you tearing it up, beating it up and beating it down?

“If you don’t like it, ignore it. Or go away, you know? I’m just not going to tolerate on my social media accounts _ which by the way are my social media accounts. They’re not Texas Motor Speedway’s social media accounts. TMS has their own social media accounts. On my social media accounts, I’m not going to tolerate it. I’ve told people that’s enough. Either change your tone or get out of here.

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage says he has had enough of the criticism that people are showering upon NASCAR.

“I think it’s incumbent on us as an industry to be positive about what we’re doing. It doesn’t mean blindly accept things; it just means don’t air your dirty linen in public. If I have an issue with NASCAR _ and I have and I will _ I’ll go talk to NASCAR directly face-to-face about it and not beat it like a dead horse on social media. Or try to come up with a clever quote for you (media) guys.”

Under NASCAR’s new rules, a tapered engine spacer of either 1.170-inches or 0.922-inches and aerodynamic ducts will be used in 17 of the 36 races. Five other races will be run with the smaller spacer, but without the ducts. The aerodynamic elements are a taller 8-inch-by-61-inch rear spoiler, a larger front splitter with a 2-inch overhang, and a wider radiator pan that measures 37 inches wide in the front, tapering to 31 inches at the rear.

At AMS, the tapered spacer measured 0.922-inches and cars were not equipped with aerodynamic ducts. Again, the objective is to reduce horsepower and create more side-by-side racing.

Those rules certainly will be scrutinized during Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, another 1.5-mile sister facility to AMS and TMS. Gossage will be on-site for an up-close review.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what Vegas is like this weekend because I think that’s more like what we’re going to experience here at Texas Motor Speedway,” Gossage said. “Vegas has a lot of grip _ not as much grip as we have _ but that’s what the new rules are supposed to help address.  And there’s a couple things different on the car this week than there were last week, so it’s really too early to say.

“But you’ve got to give NASCAR credit _ they’re doing everything they can to try to make the racing better and more competitive. We all want to see a lot of lead changes and things of that nature that we haven’t seen on mile-and-a-half tracks the last few years. They’re committed to it. They promised me that if this isn’t enough, they’ll make more changes to insure that happens.

“Sometimes NASCAR is worried about things I’ve said over the years, that ‘You’re just shooting from the hip.’ No, I’ve thought about everything I’ve ever said. The things I’ve said weren’t just casually said. I said it for a reason and right now I’m saying this for a reason that I think it’s incumbent on us as an industry to be positive.

“The negativity in our sport so often comes from the garage and specifically from the media. Again, if you don’t like the smell of elephant dung, don’t join the circus. And so we’re on 30 weekends a year. If you don’t like that, then go sell insurance or real estate or whatever. But you don’t want to get in the racing business. If you don’t like racing, don’t get into racing.”

Addressing another issue, Gossage said lagging live attendance remains a symptom of all major sports.  “It’s not just a unique thing to auto racing,” Gossage said. “But I feel strongly we’re doing well and we’re going to do better. I think we’re on a rebound right here and I’m very bullish on auto racing. So if people will just come out, they’ll really see and like it. I challenge people to come out here and compare us to other sports. There’s no comparison, there really isn’t. We’ll win.”

TMS’ 2019 season is scheduled to open March 29-31 with the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR tripleheader. The weekend will feature the Gander Outdoors Truck Series Vankor 350 on Friday, March 29; the Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, March 30 and the Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday, March 31.

The NTT IndyCar Series will visit TMS June 6-8 for the DXC Technology 600 night race. The weekend also includes the Rattlesnake 400 NASCAR Truck Series night race on June 7.

The NASCAR contingent in attendance at The Speedway Club included Cup Series competitors Ryan Blaney (2018 AAA Texas 500 pole-winner and 2018 My Bariatric Solutions 300 Xfinity Series winner);  Cup regular Erik Jones (four-time TMS winner in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Truck Series); NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer (2018 O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 winner) and NASCAR Truck Series rookie Sheldon Creed (2017 Stadium Super Trucks No Limits Off-Road Rumble winner at TMS).

The IndyCar Series was represented by five-time/reigning champion Scott Dixon, who has three victories at “The Great American Speedway,” including last June’s DXC Technology 600.

Gossage also unveiled TMS’ Turn One Terrace project, first step in a multi-year renovation/upgrade billed as “No Limits Next.” Turn One Terrace will be an 11,639-square-foot viewing deck between Turns 1 and 2 under The Speedway Club. Designed to seat 1,200 fans, the layout will give fans room to move while offering access to the Fourth Floor of The Speedway Club. That access provides an indoor/outdoor experience, catered food and beverage and other amenities fans wouldn’t see in a grandstand seat.

“Fans today aren’t going to stadiums and arenas just to see a game,” Gossage said. “They can easily sit at home and do that. What they want is an environment where they can really enjoy this live spectacle with friends. They want to socialize in ways you can’t when sitting in Seats 1-10 of a regular section.

“That’s the idea behind ‘No Limits Next.’ It started in 2018 with the Busch Restart Bar, it continues in 2019 with Turn One Terrace, and it isn’t close to ending here. It sold out two weeks ago for the upcoming O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.”

As noted, the Coca-Cola Race Day U experience will move from outside Turn 2 onto the new deck. Attendees in March can expect a meet-and-greet with 2017 and 2018 AAA Texas 500 winner Kevin Harvick, as well as other Cup Series drivers and guests.

“Can you imagine being in a section of the stands and (Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Dak Prescott is going to come out and do a Q&A with you a couple hours before the game? Doesn’t happen,” Gossage said. “Those are the kind of things we as a sport and we as the speedway are doing.”

Tickets and hospitality packages for all events and the full 2019 schedule are available at www.texasmotorspeedway.com/tickets.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 2 2019
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